Dates: Yours to choose
Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake, Shigatse, Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, Everest Base Camp
Private vehicle with driving distance 2750KM (Return)
Starts and end in Chengdu (incl. return airfare to Lhasa)
Your tour commences with pick up in the morning at your hotel for a shuttle to Chengdu Shuangliu airport. Today you are flying to the roof of the world (3700m). It is hard to find such a short flight anywhere else on the planet where the geography, climate, elevation, and culture change so dramatically. After some refreshments at your hotel, it is off to the heart of this ancient city for a walk through the lively Barkhor Bazaar that surrounds the venerated Jokhang Temple . It is an exotic experience to mix with nomads and religious pilgrims who have converged from all over Tibet.
This morning will take you on a leisurely stroll through the UNESCO Sites of Norbulingka , meaning "Treasure Park." The central feature of this 89 acre park and gardens is Norbulingka Palace - the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas. After lunch, it is a short drive to the foothills north of town where Sera Monastery sits. This includes the fascinating experience of seeing monks engage in their daily practice of religious debate. A full day already, an afternoon rest will precede a later dinner.
Following breakfast, this morning's cultural highlight is a tour of the 17th century Potala Palace , the former chief residence of the Dalai Lama. With walls as thick as 5 meters and containing over 1000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and 200,000 statues, any length of time in this historic engineering wonder is considered an abbreviated tour. A well deserved rest after lunch will be appreciated before a visit to one of Lhasa's Tibetan rug factories for an introduction to their trade and an opportunity to pick up a unique souvenir.
Today begins the overland trip by private vehicle to Mt. Everest National Park. The Friendship Highway will take you by the turquoise waters of mystical Yamdrok lake , akin to Canada's Lake Louise in Banff, but grander in scale. From there, you'll view Karola Glacier and then onto Gyantse - home of the largest stupa in Tibet - before reaching your destination for the day.Shigatse is home to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, seat of the Panchen Lama, the highest ranking Tibetan Buddhist Lama in the People's Republic of China. Distance: 340km.
Enjoy a day in the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse. At 3,900 meters, Shigatse will provide another day of needful acclimatization for the upcoming Kailash trek. Visit Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in the morning and stretch your legs by joining local pilgrims for a kora (a circuit) around the monastery. This particular monastery was commissioned by the First Dalai Lama back in the 15th century. In the afternoon enjoy a visit to the Shigatse Dzong (Fortress) on the hill in the center of town. The Dzong came to prominence in the 17th century when the 5th Dalai Lama was installed as ruler over Tibet and ruled from Kangding in Eastern Tibet all the way to the Ladakh border. The original structure was destroyed in the 1950s but rebuilt in 2007.
Get on the road early in the morning for an all day scenic feast on wheels. The convergence of arid mountain and hill tops with lush grasslands makes for a day of constant contrast and surprise. Defying the harsh barrenness of the Tibetan plateau, grasslands appear around emerald lakes and stretch along the Raka Tsangpo river valley that supports communities of shepherds that tend to their flocks of sheep. A meal and a stretch in Lhatse is included enroute, before continuing your journey until reaching Saga at nightfall. Distance: 450 km.
Today's long distance drive will take you to within a stone's throw from the borders of India and Nepal. This portion of the route follows the Tamachok Tsangpo River that stretches across Tibet from west to east, beginning at her source atMt. Kailash , becoming the Yarlung Tsampo after Saga, and ending on the other side of the Himalaya in India where the river is revered as the great Brahmaputra. Along the way, the rolling foothills of the Himalaya converge with what feels like a strikingly contradictory geographical feature: sand dunes. Civilization is now a distant memory as the highlands of Tibet lure you further west. As you approach Darchen, catch the sunset over remote Lake Manasarovar on your left with golden hues illuminating Kailash on the right. Distance: 490 km.
You may want to get up before the sun just so you can catch the moonlight on Kailash. After a hearty breakfast, throw your essentials onto your back and follow the main road out of town to the trailhead. Today is a fairly easy stroll and will afford the best views of Kailash for the rest of the trek. Be sure to capture as many photos as you can. The last bit of the hike today will be through a blistery wind tunnel valley on the north side of Kailash before you take shelter. The camp is set up just before the trail begins to ascend. Distance: 18 km.
Some pilgrims do the remainder of the Kora on this day (33 km) and hit the trail well before the sun comes up. We will take the more conservative three days to complete the Kora, which means we can enjoy a breakfast in the tent restaurant and hit the trail between 8 and 9am. The ascent begins quickly and continues gradually for the next seven or eight kilometers before rising quickly to cross the 5,600 meter pass. On the other side of the pass, you lose elevation quickly. Be sure to watch your feet, but also take time to enjoy the views. You will pass by an alpine lake before the narrow valley opens up into the much larger valley that cuts southwest back toward Darchen. Follow that valley southwest for another 5 to 6 kilometers before reaching our accommodation. Distance: 22 km.
Most of the elevation has already been gained and lost, so it is a relatively flat walk back to Darchen. You will have more strength (and breath) to engage other travelers you find on the trail. You will have lost sight of Kailash mid-morning of Day 2, but you are still surrounded by beautiful surroundings. Arrive back in Darchen for a late lunch and a shower at a local bath house. Distance: 11 km.
Retracing your steps to Saga today is necessary in more ways than one. A full day in the car to recover from the physical toll of the previous days on the Kora will allow time for your body to rest and your mind to dwell on the memories of your incredible accomplishment. A trip already full to the brim with adventure and significance is about to become richer as you anticipate tomorrow's visit to the jewel of the Himalaya range: Mt. Everest. Distance: 490 km.
Today's destination is Mt. Everest's North Face. Passing the beautiful turquoise waters of Peiku Lake on the way up to Everest Base Camp, you'll arrive just before sundown. It is well worth it to stay awake for a display of stars only imaginable from the heights of the earth. The very basic lodging of Rhongpu Monastery guesthouse is eclipsed by both the warmth of local hospitality and by beholding the sunset on the world's largest mountain. Distance: 370km
Today begins with the matchless experience of being awestruck beneath Everest's north face bathing in the morning sunlight. Unadulterated grandeur being unveiled before the eyes causes one to feel there could never be an appropriate time to steal away for the return trip. After a hot breakfast and another lingering view of the mountain, it is time to set off for Shigatse for the nicest accommodation you've had in over a week and a hot shower. Another day to add to the family history books. Distance: 420km.
A morning drive to Lhasa airport follows the Yarlung Tsampo River and offers beautiful views of idyllic Tibetan farming villages along the way. This afternoon you bid a reluctant farewell to your guide and depart from the roof of the world. Distance: 240km.